Sir Eduardo Paolozzi

Targets

1948

Not on display
Artist
Sir Eduardo Paolozzi 1924–2005
Medium
Paint on plaster
Dimensions
Unconfirmed: 280 x 255 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by Eugene and Penelope Rosenberg 2015
Reference
T14300

Summary

Targets 1948 is an off-square, wall-mounted plaster relief divided horizontally by a carved ridge and painted predominantly black. In the area above the ridge are four white discs arranged in a line, alternately large and small in size, made by scratching away the black paint. The two larger discs contain within them red painted circles, representing the targets of the work’s title. Beneath the ridge are three circles and a vertical line scratched into the painted plaster to reveal the white plaster colour beneath. From left to right, the sequence shows a double outline circle bisected by a vertical line, a thick vertical line dividing the space beneath the ridge, a smaller circle and finally a larger circle, with the two latter circles each described by a single outline and a centre point. Beneath the smaller of these two circles are the scratched initials ‘EP’.

Targets, like Plaster Relief 1948 (Tate T14303), was made in Paris while the artist was a student there. It is part of a small body of work – consisting mainly of works on paper – that takes as its subject the street life of Paris fairgrounds, particularly shooting booths and lottery stands. These works employ formal pattern-making in pen and ink and watercolour, often incorporating geometric shapes cut out from coloured paper. Targets is a rare example of this subject represented in painted plaster relief. The built-up surfaces of painted plaster have been roughly attacked and chiselled by Paolozzi to reveal the creamy white of the plaster beneath, demonstrating his exploration of the language and effect of graffiti. It was at this time that Paolozzi was first introduced to the work of Jean Dubuffet and art brut, and Targets shows how quickly Paolozzi assimilated these ideas into his work. It also reveals the foundations of the brutalist language he developed throughout this period, a language realised eight years later in Patio and Pavilion, a work incorporating plaster panels by Paolozzi that was made in collaboration with Nigel Henderson and the architects Peter and Alison Smithson for the exhibition This is Tomorrow at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London in 1956.

By the time Paolozzi moved to Paris at the end of 1947, where he stayed until 1949 or 1950, he had already been initiated into a surrealist worldview in which a feeling for the marvellous can be distilled from the everyday. Paolozzi had been introduced to surrealism by his later collaborator Nigel Henderson and quickly recognised the ‘convulsive beauty’ which André Breton, the founder of surrealism, saw as the effect of ‘poignant emotion caused by the thing revealed’ (André Breton, What is Surrealism?: Selected Writings, London 1978, p.162). It was in Paris – under the influence of artists and writers such as Dubuffet, Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti and Tristan Tzara – that the breadth and reach of Paolozzi’s art and its relation to popular culture took root. Encompassing plant life and funfair imagery, the organic and the machine-made, Paolozzi’s work of the period was conceived and realised through a wide range of media including drawings, sculptures, reliefs and scrapbook collages.

Further reading
Eduardo Paolozzi, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1971.
Robin Spencer (ed.), Eduardo Paolozzi: Writings and Interviews, Oxford 2000.
Judith Collins, Eduardo Paolozzi, Farnham 2014.

Andrew Wilson
January 2015

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